Lakeview Terrace by Neil LaBute

The psychological thriller “Lakeview Terrace” is directed by Neil LaBute and penned by David Lougherty.

“A lot of people have asked me what the whitest white guy in America is doing writing a movie that deals with interracial issues,” says “Lakeview Terrace” screenwriter David Loughery. “I wanted to challenge myself and kind of get outside my comfort zone, so I wrote a thriller that dealt with issues we don¬ít usually see in that context.”

Loughery thinks many people will see themselves in the characters he has created. “I think people will identify with the situation. Whatever feelings they have about race and color and relationships, they'll bring to the theater and they will compare it to the action we¬íre seeing on screen.”

Director Neil LaBute

Neil LaBute exploded onto the movie scene with his 1997 feature film debut, “In the Company of Men,” a razor sharp exploration of sexual politics. In the succeeding years, LaBute has built a reputation as a controversial filmmaker and playwright who is unafraid to pull back the mantle of civility covering the ugliest side of human nature.

For Loughery, La Bute's unique sensibilities made him the perfect director for “Lakeview Terrace.” “This is a guy who really knows how to push an audience¬ís buttons,” he points out. “The films he makes and the plays he writes are, in a good way, excruciating to sit through, because the situations he creates are so incredibly uncomfortable. I knew that Neil would bring something to this movie that another director couldn't. He brought a real tension to it, so the behavior between these characters feels very, very real.”

When the script for “Lakeview Terrace” came his way, LaBute saw an an opportunity to create a complex story, set in Los Angeles, that could be interpreted on many different levels. ¬ìI'd been living in Los Angeles long enough to be aware of the idea of fires encroaching on homes and racial tension and that kind of road rage thing,” says LaBute.

Although the clash of opposites in the movie is racially charged, LaBute and Loughery are in agreement that the issue of race is just one facet of the escalating battle between neighbors in the story. “Lakeview Terrace isn't so much about race as it is about personal space, boundaries, turf and the lengths people will go to protect their property,” says the writer. “I think everybody has had a situation here they¬íve just moved in next to somebody who is ruining the quality of your life. It may be a barking dog or a kid with a garage band or something else, but we all know how little things between neighbors can escalate into gigantic feuds. This is the ultimate version of that story.”

“The conflict is about someone who has grown up with a certain set of values and doesn't believe in the kind of arrangement he sees across the fence,” says the director. Everyone has lived next door or under or over another person, and felt, 'Oh my God, what are they doing in there Why are they making that noise at this time' When one of those neighbors is a policeman, it removes that first line of defense and makes for a very suspenseful sense of, 'What do I do now'
“That element is certainly not a racial element,” LaBute continues. “You could pick a good actor of any ethnicity for the part of Abel Turner. Tommy Lee Jones, Edward James Olmos, they could play the part of this man who is someone who will not give in to his neighbors.”

In the end, says Loughery, he wants the audience to be uncomfortable watching “Lakeview Terrace.” “I want them to kind of twitch in their seats, but at the same time I want to make sure that they¬íre entertained and have a great time.”

Samuel L. Jackson

Jackson had read the script and agreed to play the role of Abel when the film was still in the early stages of development. “At the first reading, I though it was a compelling story,” says Jackson, whose substantial body of work includes such acclaimed films as Pulp Fiction and Jungle Fever. “It's about an interesting kind of personality clash, with a twist in terms of who might be called the racist in the film. I just happen to be playing someone who everybody normally thinks of as a person from a dominant culture. It'll be universal in the way it plays out.”

Jackson knew LaBute's background as a playwright would be instrumental in developing the script and the characters. “Neil had a very interesting take,” says Jackson. “He also allowed us to come up with things that worked and fit into the story. He let us do the things we needed to do to bring a sense of reality and honesty.”

Actress Kerry Washington, who plays Lisa, says the strength of the script's characters and story are the key to its dramatic success. “The film is really well written,” says the actress, probably best known for her portrayal of Ray Charles' wife Della Bea Robinson in Ray. “For me, the best films are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and this film is mostly about three ordinary people who just find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Abel, Chris and Lisa are all pretty normal people who have all the pressures of the world thrown on them, from pregnancy to death. Life seems impossible to navigate. We find these people at their breaking points.”

Patrick Wilson, who plays Lisa's husband Chris, praises LaBute¬ís ability and willingness to explore the complexities of the interactions between the story's three principals. “He knows how to capture flawed relationships and take you where these characters are going,” says the actor. “He keeps driving the characters forward. He always knows what they want. That comes from being such a great playwright. There's also a real directness and rawness in his writing that I love. He gives men especially really rich characters.”

“Neil LaBute is amazing,” concurs Washington. “He's one of these people who always has a sense of humor. Whether it's 7 a.m. or midnight, he's there in good spirits. And he's a real team player. He respects everybody in their various positions and he wants everybody to do their best job. To me, that's the most important thing about a director, being able to hire the best people possible and then let them work their magic and you see him do that with every department. He really allows everybody to be a part of the process, that's what I love about filmmaking, it is really a collaborative effort.”